Panel: The Implications of Changes to Union and Collective Bargaining Agreement Strength for Teacher Labor Markets and Student Outcomes

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 16 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Bradley Marianno, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Panel Chair:  Leslie Finger, Harvard University
Discussants:  Paul Bruno, University of Southern California and Leslie Finger, Harvard University

Last June, the Supreme Court dealt public sector unions a blow when they ruled in Janus vs. AFSCME that unions could no longer continue the common practice of charging non-members fees for the cost of collective bargaining and other union services. Almost simultaneously, a flurry of teacher and teachers’ union activism began with statewide strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona and spread to school districts like Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver, and Sacramento and to Chicago area charter schools. Even as some have said that Janus would be the death knell for teachers’ unions, the infusion of union activism in these strikes suggests that it may be too early to forecast the decline of the labor movement in education.

    Against the backdrop of this renewed attention to teachers’ unions, and the potential for dramatic shifts in their strength, there is a need for new and more rigorous evidence on the effects of changing union policies and practices on public education. Even while the extant literature on teachers’ unions and public education grows, there is very little rigorous evidence that investigates the dynamics of teachers’ union strength over a single year cross-section. Consequently, it is very difficult to ascertain how changes to policies that protect union rights and power (e.g. the right to negotiate contracts; the scope of bargaining) are associated with key education outcomes (e.g. how teachers are distributed to schools, how students perform). This session for the Association of Public Policy and Management’s 41st Annual Fall Conference includes four new studies that bring novel and rigorous evidence to the debate over the effects of teachers’ unions on student outcomes and teacher labor markets over time.

    The first two papers, one by Melissa Lyon and the other by Adam Edgerton, provide new evidence on the effect of changes to union policies on student outcomes. Melissa explores the implication of Right-to-Work and other anti-labor laws on student performance (among other outcomes) and Adam investigates the relationship between Pennsylvania CBA policies and student proficiency and graduation rates. The third paper, presented by Tara Kilbride and the fourth paper, presented by Bradley Marianno provide new evidence on the effects of changing union strength on the dynamics of the teacher labor market. Tara looks at the effect of a state policy that prohibited seniority-based transfer language in Michigan CBAs on the equitable distribution of experienced teachers to Michigan schools. Brad explores how changes to the strength of working conditions in Michigan CBAs impact teacher decisions to enter, transfer, and exit the teacher labor market. 

    The four papers in this session use diverse methods, including comparative interrupted time series (coupled with qualitative interviews), difference-in-difference, propensity score matching, and fixed effects approaches to understand the effect of changing union power on teacher labor markets and student performance. Additionally, three of the four papers will be presented by graduate students. Altogether, this session brings together researchers with different methods and experience to discuss new research on  unions in education.

Outside the Scope: The Effect of Michigan Public Act 103 and Seniority-Based Transfer Provisions on Teacher Mobility
Bradley Marianno, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Tara Kilbride, Michigan State University

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